DIPLOFACE: When world leaders tweet
Heads of state, diplomats and social media
165 of the world’s heads of state have personal Twitter accounts and two-thirds of them write their own tweets – even during important international negotiations on, say, peace agreements or the distribution of refugees in the EU. They do this because today the public is one of the tools of diplomacy. State leaders, ministers and officials respond to the call for more openness amid intense 24-hour media coverage and try to position themselves and control the conversation by posting their own short, improvised texts on Facebook and Twitter directly from the negotiating room.
This gives journalists and all other users of social media insight into what happens behind the otherwise firmly closed doors of diplomacy. And by collecting and analysing interviews, tweets, Facebook updates, TV coverage, videos, etc., researchers in the Faculty of Social Sciences are assessing the impact of political leaders’ desire to share knowledge and opinions on social media on the outcome of negotiations, their countries’ images and power relations, and on the capacity of diplomacy to tackle international tensions.
This is important because when top politicians leak parts of negotiation processes to the media and via Facebook and Twitter updates, they break with the classic rules of diplomacy, whereby important agreements were negotiated in deep confidentiality – often in hermetically sealed meeting rooms.
Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for a European head of state to comment “live” from negotiations that he or she was part of, but international diplomacy is changing dramatically. It is now common for heads of state and senior public officials to post Twitter and Facebook updates describing how negotiations are progressing – or failing – and compete to be the first to publish the results in 140 characters. Sometimes even before the final result is clear to all parties.
The project is led by Professor of Political Science Rebecca Adler-Nissen.